The Benefits of Walking Your Dog
At one time or other we’ve all heard that dogs need to be taken for walks. But how many of us really understand the reasons why it’s important? Ask anyone you know and a large percentage of people might tell you that walking your dog is just to provide him exercise. Yes, exercise is important, but that’s only part of it.
Here are ten reasons why regular walks with your dog should be a high priority:
- Provides an outlet for their energy. Dogs build up a certain amount of energy every day that needs to be expended. If it doesn’t happen through walking, it will often result in bad, destructive behavior or separation anxiety. You may have heard that a tired dog is a well-behaved dog, and also, a bored dog can become a bad dog. A good walk can also significantly calm a hyper or energetic dog.
- Walking aids greatly in training your dog. Draining energy results in a calmer, satisfied and more submissive dog who is much more likely to focus on you and your training. The walk itself should be a time of training. Done correctly, it can reinforce the bond between you and your dog and will help to establish you as the pack leader. Remember that you should be in control and walking your dog, not him in control and walking you. See future articles for tips on training your dog to walk properly on a loose leash.
- Fulfills his natural roaming and exploring instincts. In nature dogs walk as a pack and roam for miles every day searching for food and water. Even though your dog is not a wild dog, walking is still in their natural instinct. Dogs are working, thinking animals that need a purpose beyond just sitting or sleeping all day long. Walking provides a sense of direction and accomplishment. Regular walks can help prevent her desire to run away or bolt out the door in an attempt to fulfill that roaming instinct.
- Provides both physical and mental stimulation. Exploring their surroundings with their senses is also an instinctual activity for dogs. During the course of a walk your dog will be exposed to all sorts of smells, sights and sounds. This also acts as a mental workout for the brain.
- Provides much needed social interaction. Socialization is an important part of any dog’s life, especially in their early years. When walking you will most likely encounter other people, children and other dogs. This will help to build her confidence and social skills. Dogs who are not walked can become more fearful and shy, or might lack the necessary social skills to interact with people and other dogs.
- Provides exposure to a wide variety of “worldly” things, creating a more confident and stable dog. A dog who is walked often will become more comfortable around all sorts of things such as bicycles, skateboards, traffic noises, loud trucks, mailmen, etc. Dogs without this exposure can become fearful, skittish and territorial, seeing every strange sound, vehicle or person as a threat. Many dogs who bark constantly are barking out of fear of everything they hear or see that is strange to them. If you walk the same route regularly, it can also possibly assist your dog in finding his way home if he gets out of your yard and lost.
- If you own other dogs, walking them together will help them to bond with each other as a pack and prevent behavior problems between them.
- Dogs are social beings that crave our attention - walking with them provides your attention and interaction with them.
- Regular walking can lengthen and improve the quality of life for your dog.
- And best of all… you will have a walking buddy and a reason yourself to get out, get moving, enjoy the fresh air and get yourself healthy and fit!
A regular walking routine with your dog can result in a happy, healthy, confident and calm dog who is much less likely to exhibit behavior problems and much easier to train. A dog who is not walked often could become anxious, bored, nervous or destructive, or could exhibit any number of behavior problems in an effort to fulfill his basic instinctual needs. Walking should be the first step in solving any behavior problem.
Most experts agree that an appropriate daily walk should be a minimum of 30-45 minutes, preferably all at once, but could be split into shorter walks throughout the day. Certain breeds such as herding or sporting dogs, or high energy dogs, may need more. A common myth is that if you have a large fenced in yard it is not necessary to walk your dog. Dogs typically will not exercise themselves, unless there is another dog to play with, so your yard will essentially become a large kennel to them, a place to be bored and alone. They still need the physical, social and mental stimulation as mentioned above. A dog that is left alone for hours during the day, even in a large yard, may not be a well-behaved dog at night.
If you cannot find the time to walk your dog, you might consider a trusted friend, neighbor or professional dog walker. A treadmill can provide at least the expenditure of physical energy if nothing else is available. There are also doggie day care facilities where your dog can get social interaction and exercise periodically.
When you walk remember to be responsible and carry bags to pick up after your dog, and obey leash laws.